James Anderson praises team environment as Ben Stokes leaves series for family issue

Veteran credits Root, Silverwood and Buttler for creating empathetic dressing-room culture

George Dobell
George Dobell
James Anderson gets a congratulatory fist bump, England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Emirates Old Trafford, 2nd day, July 25, 2020

James Anderson gets a congratulatory fist bump  •  AFP

James Anderson has paid tribute to the supportive environment created by the England management team.
Having been in and around the England dressing room for the best part of two decades, Anderson is particularly well placed to comment on the way it has changed. And he feels it has become more family focused under the management of captain, Joe Root, and head coach, Chris Silverwood. He also credited Jos Buttler for his influence in creating a "more empathetic" environment.
Anderson was speaking in the light of the decision to allow Ben Stokes to miss the rest of the series to spend time with his family in New Zealand. And while Anderson admitted the loss of such a player was a "big blow" for England, he reiterated the team's support for the move.
"I do think cricket is more empathetic now, yes," Anderson said. "It has definitely changed for the better. We quite often take this game very seriously - I have done this week - and it is quite a big deal for some people.
"But there is nothing more important than family. It is something that certainly Joe and Chris have brought in under their leadership: family comes first. And this group of players rally round each other and help if there is anything that needs help. Ben is going through that so it is our job to try to rally round and support him the best we can and hope that things turn out okay.
"It's a big blow for us because he's a big part of our team on the field and off it. But obviously family comes first and we will all support him as best we can. We're confident with the guys we have here. Whoever comes in we're sure will be fantastic."
It wasn't always this way. Not so long ago, players routinely missed the birth of their children and, as the example of Jonathan Trott, who is part of the coaching team for this series, shows, the lack of awareness over stress-related issues could result in declining mental health. Families were not always appreciated on tour, either: now the ECB welcome and subsidise such trips.
While Buttler has gained plaudits for his batting in recent days, Anderson also had praise for his role in creating that more benevolent, supportive environment.
"He's brilliant for our team and the environment," Anderson said. "We absolutely love him in this team.
"We've seen how amazingly calm he is under pressure in white-ball cricket chasing down a score. He showed that in abundance on Sunday. The way he batted with Chris Woakes was absolutely phenomenal. I don't think there's anyone better in our team at chasing down a target.
"We all know how hard he works at his game. The way he works, he will keep getting better and better; certainly on the keeping side of things.
"Hopefully that innings will do his confidence wonders. We want Jos in our team performing at his best."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo